Are you a soul writer?
I ask that question in the full knowledge that you may not perceive yourself to be any kind of a writer, much less a soul writer. What is a soul writer anyway? We’ll get to the “soul” part later. For now, let’s address the second part first: are you a writer?
For most people, their first response is likely to be some form or variation of, “God, no! I could never be a writer.” Over time, I have heard a wide range of denials from people who believe they are not writers. “I suck at writing. I don’t know how to spell and I hate grammar.” One of the most creative excuses for not writing I ever heard was, “I can’t write. Even if I could, my handwriting is so terrible I couldn’t even read what I wrote.” All of these excuses, and others like them, are just that: excuses.
A Writer Writes…Every Day!
Let me dispel one notion that may be banging around in your consciousness and tempting you into self doubt just about now. You ARE a writer. Or, at least you can be, if you are willing to do what it takes to be a writer. If you can speak, carry on a conversation, or even tell a story or a joke, chances are good that you can be a writer, no matter what you may believe, or what others may have told you in the past. However, you will never be a writer, until you actually write.
Thinking of or dreaming about being a writer is not the same thing as actually writing. You either write, or you don’t. The same holds true for any creative endeavor. If you saw the movie Throw Momma from the Train, you may remember the mantra of Billy Crystal’s writing teacher character: A writer writes…every day. It’s true, a writer does write every day. Well, perhaps not EVERY day. After all, everyone needs a break from time to time from whatever it is we are doing. But, a writer does write most every day.
If You Write, You Are A Writer
If you don’t perceive yourself as a writer, or even if you have never written, allow me to make a distinction here, so as not to inadvertently put you off on the idea of trying your hand at soul writing. There is only one thing you need to do to be a writer, and that is to actually write. You do not have to be a professional writer to lay claim to being a writer. By professional, I mean getting paid to write. All you have to do is engage in the activity of writing, and you are a writer.
It has nothing to do with getting paid to write. If you write, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if it’s for public consumption or not. As long as you make the time to write on a regular basis, you can call yourself a writer. Whether you are a good writer or bad writer, a fiction writer or historical writer, a memoirist or a journalist, it does not matter. If you write, you are a writer.
Write About What You Know
In the fall of 1982, I was attending University of Texas here in Austin. One afternoon, I ran into one of my English professors from the previous semester in front of the Student Union. It was a brief, but profound encounter. He asked how I was doing, to which I replied, “I am doing great. I made the decision this summer to be a writer.” I still had not figured out what I was going to write about, but I had a vague idea I wanted to be a novelist. He congratulated me on my decision, and then he said: “Write about what you know, and you’ll be fine.”
I remember feeling a sense of excitement when he said it, thinking how simple, direct and profound was his advice. “Yes, of course, write about what I know.” How perfect! Then, a new question quickly cast a shadow into the light of my newfound awareness: what do I know? It wasn’t a question intended to fuel a curious investigation into what I did know, so I could get to writing the next great American novel based on what I found. It was more like a question of self doubt. What do I know that anyone would even give two hoots about?
At the time, I still had this idea in my head that to be a writer meant to be a “professional,” or perhaps more accurately, a “commercially successful” writer. By “commercially successful” I mean on the best seller list with my books being turned into feature films. While I do get paid to write and am therefore a “professional” by that measure, I am still waiting to experience being a “commercially successful” writer. If I were still measuring my success by that standard, I would likely have long ago given up on being a writer, and gotten a “real” job. If I had, I would never have known the joys of being a soul writer, or for that matter being a professional songwriter, recording artist, writer, public speaker and Licensed Unity Teacher. None of those would have happened if I had not become a soul writer.
What Exactly Is A Soul Writer Anyway?
There is no hard, fast universally agreed upon definition of soul writer. You and I could come up with our own distinct and different definitions, and we might both be right. Since the base definition of a “writer” is someone who writes, variations between our different definitions would have to center on what “soul” means. What exactly is a soul writer anyway? The simple answer is: a writer who writes about and from the soul. This begs the question, what is a soul?
In Unity teachings, one of the ways Charles Fillmore defines “soul” is “the sum of conscious mind and subconscious mind.” In other words, your “soul” is the sum total of every thought, feeling, emotion or experience you have stored in the memory of either your conscious or subconscious mind. So, to be a soul writer is to be a writer that writes about anything and everything that might be stored in the memory of your own soul, whether conscious or subconscious.
Begin Your Soul Writing Right Where You Are
Even if you have been intrigued up until now at the prospect that you might be a writer after all, this idea might be a little overwhelming. When you realize just how much you have stored up in your soul over the course of a lifetime, or even multiple lifetimes (if you believe in reincarnation), then you might hear yourself asking, “But, where should I begin?” The short answer is, begin where you are.
In Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she enthusiastically advocates for the use of “morning pages” as a means of stimulating the process of creative recovery. For her, the morning pages are the key strategy to success in pursuing a “spiritual path to higher creativity.” In the book, she describes the morning pages as an “apparently pointless process” of writing “three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream of consciousness” every single day, preferably first thing in the morning when you rise, especially when you are just getting started.
She emphasizes that “there is no wrong way to do the morning pages,” except of course to not do them. It is purely for “brain drain” purposes, to clear away the endless mind chatter that serves only to distract you from living a soulful, authentic and creative life. The morning pages are not meant to be “art” and they are not even for “public consumption.” She even encourages you to refrain from reading any entry you write in the morning pages for at least eight weeks after you wrote it. Just simply drain your brain by writing your three morning pages today, then do it again tomorrow, and the next day after. Quality does not matter, only that you do it.
Tapping Into Your Own Soul’s Vein Of Gold
Speaking as someone who took her advice and experienced profound changes in my life as a result, I can say with full authority that the “morning pages” are anything but an “apparently pointless process.” By being willing to do them, my soul revealed itself to me. I began to understand that I do know a lot about a lot of things. Mostly, I came to understand there is one thing I know more about than anyone else on the planet – me, my own life, my personal experiences, my dreams and aspirations, fears and failures, challenges and victories.
As I continued to do the morning pages over time, I became more and more aware that my own experiences were not necessarily unique, but that I had a unique way of writing or speaking about them. I came to know that my individual experiences were part of the cosmic whole, that there was an intersection between my personal experience and the universal experiences of all humankind. I learned that I did have something worthy to say, even if it only mattered to my own soul.
I now know that anyone’s story, properly presented, is as potentially inspiring as the story of anyone who ever lived, past or present, famous or otherwise. We all have a unique “vein of gold” running through our souls, and the purpose of soul writing is to reveal that to your own self. Even if this is the only thing you achieve, it will have inestimable value to you, your life and your personal journey. Whether anyone ever knows about it or not, you will know it and it will have made all the difference in the world.
Soul Writers Reconvene This Saturday Morning
If you have read this far, then it is safe to assume there is something in all this talk about soul writing that intrigues, even excites you. If so, then I invite you to join the Soul Writers group this coming Saturday morning from 9:30-11:00 at Unity Church of the Hills as we continue our journey together after a summer break. We only meet once a month on first Saturdays and everyone is welcome. This Saturday, Bonnie Gale and I will be leading a discussion and exercise in writing “cups,” a device Julia Cameron suggests in her book, The Vein of Gold. “Cups” are a means of identifying the parts of your own experience that may be the source of your own unique “vein of gold.” Be sure to bring a journal and a pen, the two absolutely essential tools needed by every soul writer.